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Ridiculous Reference Numbers - UK Government!

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Ridiculous Reference Numbers - UK Government!

Old 28th Jul 2018, 20:47
  #21 (permalink)  
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There is actually a logical (pun intended) reason for so many characters in the ID. It allows for error checking. Some of those digits will be a checksum, so that if you enter one or more digits wrongly they will indicate an error rather than accept you as being someone else.
Yes, I get that, and I've been thinking about it.

Let's say that a registration number with 7 digits is enough for a register of companies. It would be, wouldn't it, until there are 9,999,999 companies in England and Wales. Since there were 4,033,355 in March 2018, that provides room for growth. If we add 2 digits for a checksum, that allows the checksum to be up to 99. The most the checksum can come to is 63, so that's enough. Now we have 9 digits, but no letters. When 9 digits are needed, if ever, new registrations can add the extra digit. The 2 for the checksum are still enough.

So the need for a checksum is a fair point. But that does not account for the remaining length of present references, or the absurdity of each company having at least 3 reference numbers with HMRC, let alone the rest of the Government.

By the way, what happens if the checksum digits are entered wrongly?
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Old 28th Jul 2018, 21:20
  #22 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by racedo View Post
It is no shock that HM CS has a high union membership which becomes makes it difficult to dismiss them and people stay on because no business will ever touch them.
But the worst thing is they think they are very productive.
We do so need a like button.
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Old 28th Jul 2018, 22:27
  #23 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by old,not bold View Post
Yes, I get that, and I've been thinking about it.

Let's say that a registration number with 7 digits is enough for a register of companies. It would be, wouldn't it, until there are 9,999,999 companies in England and Wales. Since there were 4,033,355 in March 2018, that provides room for growth. If we add 2 digits for a checksum, that allows the checksum to be up to 99. The most the checksum can come to is 63, so that's enough. Now we have 9 digits, but no letters. When 9 digits are needed, if ever, new registrations can add the extra digit. The 2 for the checksum are still enough.
Google will give you many learned references for error detection and correction. Suffice it here to say that more redundant characters improves security.

By the way, what happens if the checksum digits are entered wrongly?
Then the checksum doesn't match the rest of the number, and it fails the check.
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Old 28th Jul 2018, 22:51
  #24 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Sallyann1234 View Post
Google will give you many learned references for error detection and correction.
Horrendous mathematics - I leave that stuff, like crypto, to the real nerds.

And even when all the maths is hidden from you in a library you've still got to work out how to use it. Eg, the library gives you a choice of error correcting code schemes, and you're supposed to choose which one to use depending on the quality of the radio channel from time to time. Pick a scheme that's got too much redundancy, and you waste bandwidth by transmitting unnecessary check bits; pick a scheme that's got too little redundancy, and you waste bandwidth by retransmitting failed packets; try too hard to match the scheme to the channel's variations with time and you waste bandwidth by transmitting too much control overhead to negotiate the scheme changes.

And eventually you get all this sort-of right and somebody then goes and blows it out of the water by parking a ****ing great metal truck in the middle of your transmission path. Or, you did all your test measurements and optimisation calculations in winter, and then in spring the trees grow leaves, and then it rains. Ect ect ...

I've watched other people go through all this pain but I make sure I avoid it myself.
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Old 28th Jul 2018, 23:10
  #25 (permalink)  
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Suffice it here to say that more redundant characters improves security.
I'm sure it does, but what we are talking about here is reference numbers, not passwords, user names etc etc.

When I attach a reference number to a payment to HMRC, for example, that's all it is. It tells them who sent the payment. It's exactly the same as putting your name as reference for an on-line payment from your bank. There's no security, encryption or whatever involved. It's just a unique identity. Who would want to "decipher" it, and why? What would they discover? That the payment came from my company, that's what. So what?
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Old 28th Jul 2018, 23:32
  #26 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by old,not bold View Post
When I attach a reference number to a payment to HMRC, for example, that's all it is. It tells them who sent the payment. It's exactly the same as putting your name as reference for an on-line payment from your bank.
No it's not. If you make a one character error in typing your name there's a fair chance that a human and still work out what you meant. If you make a one digit error in typing a number they can't, generally.

An "error detection code" is where you add extra redundant information to a message so that if it gets mangled in transmission, eg you type two digits the wrong way round, this is detected and the message rejected. This isn't foolproof, but the better the maths and the more redundant information that's included the more likely it is that an error won't get through, and it's not hard to make it extremely unlikely that a typing error in a number will be a valid number for someone else. (A simple "checksum", where you just add the digits, is pretty useless, as it won't even spot the common error of switching two digits around. But plenty of better schemes are known.)

An "error correction code" is where you include even more redundancy, so that there's enough information in the message that you can only detect that it's been mangled but also reconstruct what the original must have been. To take a trivial (and probably mathematically completely useless) example, if the message is four digits and the error correction code is to repeat it three times, and what is received is "123412431234" the algorithm might reasonably concluded that the message should have been "123412341234" from which the original "1234" can be extracted without the faff of responding to the message with a request for a retry.
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Old 29th Jul 2018, 09:12
  #27 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by old,not bold View Post
I'm sure it does, but what we are talking about here is reference numbers, not passwords, user names etc etc.

When I attach a reference number to a payment to HMRC, for example, that's all it is. It tells them who sent the payment. It's exactly the same as putting your name as reference for an on-line payment from your bank. There's no security, encryption or whatever involved. It's just a unique identity. Who would want to "decipher" it, and why? What would they discover? That the payment came from my company, that's what. So what?
​​​​​​The only reason for it, in this particular case, is to check that you have entered a valid identity. The software checks that you haven't entered a wrong number, before proceeding to accept further data.

If the site was able to continue with a wrongly typed identity number, why would it bother to ask for it?
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Old 30th Jul 2018, 17:19
  #28 (permalink)  
 
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One reason for longer numbers is to subdivide into categories. Telephone numbers are a simple example of this - the first few digits give you the area code, the rest narrow it down to a particular number within that area code. I think it's less prevalent now, but even beyond the area code often the next couple of digits would pick out a particular exchange within that area. Clearly, if you've got an area code in a sparsely-populated area, there may only be a few thousand of the million possible numbers in use, whereas a code for a nearby urban area may be bursting at the seams and need expanding. In theory, the UK has the capacity for billions of phone numbers, in practice a bunch of them are not used for various reasons.
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Old 30th Jul 2018, 17:57
  #29 (permalink)  
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My NHS Number used to be in the form "ABCD123" back in the 80's... I am sure it has changed since!
Everybody's did. There were, IIRC, 13 different formats for NHS numbers, as they were originally issued by local health authorities. In order for the new improved all-singing all-dancing NHS system to work it was preferable for everybody to have a number of the same format, the programmers not being capable of coping with the different formats. The number change-over took place around 20 years ago. The all-singing-all-dancing nationwide computer system is still not working, and as at the present moment one department in one hospital is not able to tell the others that a patient has died to prevent the other departments calling the late patient in for appointments.

Re the original question I do not want one number for everything. For example I do not want nurses to know my ID number at the bank, or vice versa, or that the crim that nicks my wallet will get the one number that gives them access to every part of my life.
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Old 30th Jul 2018, 18:34
  #30 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by UniFoxOs View Post
I do not want one number for everything ... that the crim that nicks my wallet will get the one number that gives them access to every part of my life.
That was a very strong argument against the ID card proposals, which weren't so much about ID cards as about the database, being a one-stop-shop for identity thieves. And this was an argument that everybody could sign up to[*], not just leftie liberal tin-foil-hat wearers worried about a police state.
[*] Except of course those who are well practised in believing six impossible things before breakfast, such as

(1) the computer system will never be hacked
(2) there aren't any bugs in the hundreds of millions of lines of code involved
(3) the computer system will never be hacked
(4) none of the 1,000,000 or so people who will have access to the system are any of
(a) incompetent
(b) open to bribes
(c) thick
(d) in the habit of writing down their passwords
(e) criminal infiltrators (think how paedophiles are good at infiltrating themselves into the right jobs)
(5) the computer system will never be hacked
..... ect ect ....
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 15:36
  #31 (permalink)  
 
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..... ect ect ....
error error
should be etc etc
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 18:52
  #32 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Shack37 View Post
..... ect ect ....
error error
should be etc etc
Only to the ignorant and uneducated who have never come across Nigel Moleswoth, as any fule kno.
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